Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strawberry planting time

Bare root strawberry planting is generally done in early spring meaning April in our area. Container transplants can be planted now into May and even later.

Strawberries are a productive and rewarding fruit crop for our area. They will come into production in a year or less and can be used as an attractive groundcover as well as in pots. Locate them in an area with full sun protected from wind and amend soil before planting.

One of the most rewarding types of strawberries to grow are Junebearers because berries have the fragrance and intense flavor often missing from store bought fruit. The downside of these types is that if spring frost damages blossoms little or no crop will be produced until the following year. Recommended varieties are Honeyoye, Guardian, Kent, Cabot, Mesabi and Jewel. These are generally grown as matted rows.

Everbearing types produce two main spring and fall crops per season with a few berries in between. They are hardy and reliable. Recommended varieties are Quinault, Ogallala (for clay) and Fort Larimie (best on sandy soil).

Day Neutral types flower and fruit on six week cycles over the summer but generally yield less than other types. They can be grown as annuals and removed as you would annual flowers. They are sensitive to drying out and heat. Varieties include Tristar, Tribute and Fern.

Both Everbearers and Day Neutral types are generally grown in individual "hills" even though they may end up being more on the level. Raised mounds are helpful as strawberries are very subject to root diseases and require good drainage. Remove runners to preserve separate plants.

Why not plant some of each type to hedge your bets and gain some of the advantages of each?

Photo credit: All Carl Wilson

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seed germination photolog

A reader has asked that I reprise photos and comments on germinating small seeds in our dry climate. Between winds, intense sun and sometimes warm temperatures like the past 80 degree F weekend, germinating small seeds can be difficult.

Small seeds such as lettuce, radish, endive, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, rappini, mizuna and others are covered with only a thin layer of soil at planting. This leaves them subject to death from rapid surface drying as seed germinates. Solutions are frequent light watering in combination with a seed germinaiton blanket. Here's how to use seed germination blankets.

1. Needed supplies include seed, row cover fabric available at garden centers, U pins bent from wire and a garden trowel or tool to make a fine soil surface on the seedbed.

2. Plant small seed such as lettuce by just barely covering with soil. Burying small seed too deep will prevent germination. Lay down row cover fabric over planted seed.

3. Secure row cover fabric by pushing wire U pins through the fabric and into the soil. Bury sides of fabric with soil for further protection from blowing in winds.

4. Water through the row cover fabric. Fabric slows evaporation from soil surface helping seed germination. It also prevents birds from eating seed.

5. Germinated lettuce seedlings visible through wet row cover fabric. Time to remove the fabric that has served its purpose as a temporary mulch for the seed germination period.

6. Fabric removed, Seed germination success!

7. Proceed to grow a successful crop watering more frequently when seedlings are small and cutting back as plants grow more roots. Good eating!

Photo credit: All photos - Carl Wilson